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Question Number: 28924

Law 15 - Throw In 10/31/2014

RE: regional Under 17

john charles of inverness, SCOTLAND United Kingdom asks...

are we allowed using a towel to dry the ball before taking a long throw?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi John
There is nothing in the laws to prevent it other than the length of time taken to do it. Rory Delap and Ryan Shotton when at Stoke City did it and the Premier League opinion was that as long as the towel was also provided to opponents and it did not unduly delay play there was no issue. As ballboys were used the players did not have to go very far to get the towel so delay was minimal although sometimes it took longer than should have. As a result there were a few spats about time wasting and gamesmanship during games.
There was the infamous *towelgate* game between Stoke and QPR were QPR used a towel on every single throw, even short ones, right from kick off much to the chagrin of Stoke players and technical staff, finally resulting in a Stoke technical staff member being removed by the referee. QPR claimed they were just doing what Stoke were doing. Stoke towels did not appear with the ballboys after half time yet QPR produced their own shortly after that.
Stoke then discontinued the practise in subsequent games using the jersey instead and then there was a suggestion that towelling was attached on the underside of shirts but it later emerged that it was red towelling undershirts which according to Stoke was acceptable under the Laws, which they are, and it was not a towel that had to be made available to opponents under the PL rule. It is not unusual to see players use their jersey to dry the ball yet the fabric used in shirts does not offer much by way of drying capability.
I personally think that for the benefit achieved by it at the lower levels of the game is not worth the effort plus it is reasonably certain to be called for delaying the restart should the player have to go a distance to get a towel. No referee is going to have a delay while a player runs maybe 20/30 yards to get a towel to then dry the ball particularly when the opponents may be shouting for the game to restart.

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